Francesca Sasnaitis

Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series (1949–63) was my induction into crime reading. I was smitten with the secret society of children who set out to solve mysteries and right wrongs despite adults’ disbelief and objections. As a teen, I graduated to Agatha Christie and Arthur Upfield (in the 1970s, we were still unaware how offensive his depiction of Detective Inspector Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte was to Aboriginal Australians). Later, came writers of the hard-boiled school – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Chester Himes – and others, like Georges Simenon and James Ellroy, who extended or subverted the conventions of the genre.

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The View From Here

Art Gallery of Western Australia
by
07 December 2021

The opening weekend of The View from Here at the refurbished Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) happened to coincide with the Perth International Jazz Festival. The city was abuzz with crowds enjoying long delayed sunny skies and free open-air jazz concerts. Scaffolding had disappeared from AGWA’s façade just in time.

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Paige Clark’s She Is Haunted (Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 264 pp) opens with the story ‘Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’, a title that alludes to the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – that inform the rest of her début collection. Clark doesn’t explain why the narrator feels anxious about the survival of her unborn child and its father. The reader is left to assume that the prospect of too much undeserved happiness impels her to embark on a series of amusing and escalating bargains with a capricious God. That the narrator bears the losses with equanimity is indicative of the deadpan humour with which Clark deflects serious matters.

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In 1961, Ornette Coleman was scheduled to play in Cincinnati. According to one story, the concert turned into a near-riot after patrons refused to pay, having observed the marquee out front billing the performance as ‘Free Jazz’. Whether apocryphal or not, it goes to the heart of the long-running confusion about jazz terminology. Free jazz, of course, refers to the experimental or avant-garde work of innovators, like Coleman, who rebelled against the conventions of bebop, hard bop, and modal jazz.

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The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen begins like a fable, the story of a poor family that wins the lotto and moves to a remote Queensland location to make fairy-tale characters for a tourist attraction called Dragonhall. There should be a happy ending, but there isn’t.

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No Document begins with a description of the opening sequence of Georges Franju’s Le Sang des bêtes (Blood of the Beasts, 1949) in which a horse is led to slaughter – a significant misremembering that Anwen Crawford rectifies later. Franju’s black-and-white documentary actually begins with a collage of scenes shot on the outskirts of Paris; surreal juxtapositions of objects abandoned in a landscape devastated by war and reconstruction.

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‘Yee-haw’ 

Black Swan State Theatre Company of WA
by
07 December 2020

Musicals remind me of watching midday movies with my grandmother in the days of black-and-white television. Years later, the revelation that many of these films were actually in colour seemed antithetical to the moral certainties they depicted.

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In the garden of a hotel twenty minutes from Yogyakarta, a group of hopeful, middle-aged Westerners gyrate anxiously to the strains of LaBelle’s greatest hit. Unlike their young Balinese instructor, they are fighting a losing battle. Why bother? Robert Dessaix wonders. Next morning, his travelling companion answers in her husky smoker’s growl, ‘It’s death they’re afraid of – or at least dying.’

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To celebrate the year’s memorable plays, films, television, music, operas, dance, and exhibitions, we invited a number of arts professionals and critics to nominate their favourites. 

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Fortune begins with Napoleon’s triumphant entry into Berlin on 27 October 1806. Does it matter whether the popular image of the emperor astride a magnificent white stallion is an embellishment? ‘Time sullies every truth,’ Lenny Bartulin tells us. History is as much a fiction as this tale of derring-do and dire misfortune  ...

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